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How Do Broken Bones Heal?

Nurse tends to a kid with an elbow cast at health clinic.

Whether from a sports injury or a playtime accident, sometimes kids break bones. Wrists, ankles, legs, fingers, toes; breaks happen! 

What Is A Broken Bone?

Broken bone vs. fracture

A broken bone is also referred to as a bone fracture. Although use of both words can give the impression they are related but separate types of injuries, these words are used interchangeably to describe the same injury. 

There are multiple types of fractures, indicated by where the broken bone is located and how it breaks. In the most basic terms, an orthopedist will describe a broken bone as:

  • Open or closed, to identify if the bone has pierced through skin
  • Partial or complete, to describe a break that goes through only part of the bone or all the way through
  • Displaced or nondisplaced, to describe pieces of broken bone that either do or do not still line up

Different types of broken bones

More specific types of broken bones or fractures include:

  • Stress fracture – Also referred to as a hairline fracture, these breaks are very thin
  • Comminuted fracture – Refers to a bone broken into three or more pieces
  • Transverse – A break straight through the bone
  • Oblique – A bone that’s broken at an angle
  • Greenstick – A break on one side of the bone, with a bend on the other
  • Compression fracture – A break most often found in the spine
  • Avulsion fracture – The tearing of a ligament or tendon off the bone

What are the Causes of a Broken Bone?

Generally, bone fracture causes are any sort of blunt force trauma, such as a car accident, sports injury, or fall. Sports injuries are especially common bone fracture causes for kids and teens; taking a hard fall while playing a sport can lead to a broken bone, and kids participating in sports with very repetitive movements may suffer stress fractures, such as elbow fractures in baseball pitchers and shin fractures in track runners. 

What Are The Symptoms Of A Broken Bone?

A bone fracture is not always obvious at first. Just as with a sprain, bone fracture symptoms can be tenderness, pain, and swelling, along with bruising and limited mobility. With a larger broken bone, you may be able to see the break either beneath or coming through the skin. Depending on the bone fracture cause, your child may not know they’ve broken anything at first, either from shock or the location of the break. However, a broken bone will often coincide with a deeper-than-usual ache or very sharp pain. 

How To Diagnosis A Broken Bone

If a child’s fracture cannot be confirmed with a physical examination, your doctor may perform a scan or X-ray to get a clear visual of the injury. Once there is an image of the break, your pediatric orthopedist will be able to diagnose the exact type of bone fracture your child has and prescribe the best way to support the broken bone during the healing process. In children, certain bone structures differ with age, so it’s important to go to a pediatric orthopedics practice, as those specialists know your child’s growth stage and how to properly approach their bone fracture.

Healing A Broken Bone

The body gets to work on healing the broken bone almost immediately. As with any injury, the site of the bone fracture will swell and blood will clot to begin the repairing process. Over the next few weeks, the body sends collagen to the area to build a stiffer callus in place of the clot, followed by essential minerals to create a new, strong bone. At this point, the site of the fracture will continue to strengthen and harden over time, even after the cast is off and normal activities resume. 

Most of the time, your child’s body will do all the work repairing their fracture with the support of a hard cast and limited movement. This is why it is important to visit a trusted pediatric orthopedist to ensure bones are properly aligned and supported for optimal healing. 

A more severe fracture may require surgery. An orthopedic surgeon may place screws, rods, or wires into your child’s broken bone to stabilize and properly align the bone(s) for healing. 

Generally, a decrease in pain and bruising without the use of painkillers and reduced swelling are good signs that the broken bone is healing. Your child will also have an increased range of motion in the affected limb.

Pediatric orthopedics practice in NJ 

If your child is suffering from an intense ache or sharp pain after an impact and you suspect a broken bone is the cause, we encourage you to set up an appointment to see a pediatric orthopedist in one of our four northern New Jersey offices or call The Pediatric Orthopedic Center at 973-538-7700.

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Know Before Your First Visit

Verify the date and time of your appointment. You may be required to complete new patient paperwork or provide personal information prior to being seen by your doctor. Please arrive approximately 30 minutes prior to your appointment time.

Confirm the address and location of your appointment. The Pediatric Orthopedic Center has four convenient locations in New Jersey. Confirm with the front desk staff the office location for your visit.

Be aware of travel issues and delays. Be mindful of any driving conditions, road construction detours and parking requirements to ensure you arrive for your appointment on time.

Urgent Care for Acute Injuries (Cedar Knolls)

Walk-In Hours Update

*Urgent and Acute Injuries Only during Urgent Care/Walk-in Clinic hours. To find out if your child’s injury qualifies for a walk-in visit, click here. (Walk-in fees may apply.)


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 9am-5pm
Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 5pm-8pm


Regular Hours: 8am-5pm
NO walk-in hours.


Walk-in Hours* (Cedar Knolls): 10am-2pm

Sunday: Closed

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